An open letter to the owners of Birmingham City FC

Blues Trust

On October 17th 2016 Trillion Trophy Asia (TTA) became the largest shareholder in Birmingham International Holdings, the ultimate owner of Birmingham City, as then it was known. At that time Blues were 6th in the league having finished 10th in the previous two seasons. Since then they have diluted their ownership somewhat but are still the largest shareholder in the company with 30.6% of the shares; Ever Depot and Dragon Villa, also investment vehicles like TTA are the other significantly sized shareholders. Between them these three entities own approximately 75% of the holding company.

During the TTA era it is fair to say that the club have not progressed on the field. If anything, they have significantly regressed, having not finished higher than 17th since TTA’s involvement.

Following Pep Clotet’s departure, the Blues Trust wish to write an open letter to the owners of the club urging them to take three key actions to help try and achieve improved success on the field – something that we believe is in both the owners and fans interests.

Firstly, we believe it is imperative that the club have a sustainable coherent business plan and strategy. So far, this has been entirely lacking, leading to the continued malaise on the pitch that saw Blues scrapping to avoid relegation for the fourth time in recent years.

Early on in TTA’s reign, under Harry Redknapp, there was a focus on spending and bringing experienced players. At the beginning of this season there seemed to have been a shift with a focus on youth and buying younger players with a view to developing them and then selling them on. This seems a more sustainable strategy, but it is important that the club develop a clear detailed roadmap over several years and sticks with it even if there are setbacks on the way and success is not achieved overnight. An exemplar here are Brentford – they have a clear long-term strategy, have carefully implemented measures to sustain it, and are now reaping the rewards.

Secondly, we believe that the club need to appoint a quality manager, demonstrate faith in and commitment to him, and give him space to manage as he sees fit.

Since TTA took over, the club have appointed 5 ‘permanent’ managers in the space of less than 4 years. No manager has managed two full seasons under TTA, and only Gary Monk has survived for one full season. Looking at most successful sides they have a degree of managerial continuity that enables a team to evolve and develop and become successful over the seasons rather than tearing it down and starting again at the first setback, which has been the story under TTA. It is also critical that the manger is allowed to develop the side without interference. There should be a clear delineation between the responsibilities for managing the team and the overall running of the club.

Finally, we believe that the senior management of the club and Board at Birmingham City needs overhaul in order to bring in the sort of experience required to support a successful long-term goal.

The TTA era has seen several managerial sackings and appointments without ever being able to appoint and retain a manager who has been successful. None of the five managers appointed since 2016 has had a win ratio superior to Gary Rowett before he was sacked. Over the same period there has been a loss of highly experienced back room staff at the club and two EFL charges.

We understand that the owners’ preference to appoint senior management at the club in whom they have trust, but the track record of the current incumbents – particularly that of the CEO – is extremely poor, and has demonstrated no evidence of the wherewithal to improve.

We therefore implore the owners to look at the leadership structure of the club, and make meaningful changes in the club’s best interests.

It goes without saying that we do not wish to see TTA fail and the cycle of disappointment continue. On the contrary, we want them to succeed and to make the football club a force to be reckoned with once again. But to achieve that we firmly believe that a change of approach is essential and a more long-term consistent strategy required. Truly successful football clubs are built over time. They are very seldom thrown together.

As long-standing supporters and as Trust members, we urge the owners to be mindful of this when considering their next step.

As long-standing supporters and as a Trust, we would welcome an opportunity for open dialogue going forward.

If you share our concerns about the Club you can join the Trust for as little as £4 a year – details are shown below.

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35 Comments

  1. Dean Giblin

    Sorry but as a trust member, you can’t say you want TTA to succeed. You are not speaking for the trust members. I want TTA out ,as I am sure many trust members do.
    When I helped, set up the trust back in 2011, one of the aims of the trust was to ensure the ownership was decent. TTA are not good for the club. Furthermore, I thought the trust were looking at the protection of the ground. The ground is now under the ownership of TTA.
    As Dan Ivery alluded to in his blog “Snowballs and Avalanches” the time for protests against TTA must be now or next May we will be in the position again of a last day scrap for survival

    • John

      TTA have to succeed, for if they don’t neither does BCFC. There is little point in letting dislike of TTA colour the fact that if they fail, or go under, then Blues will also go under and be subject to massive points deduction and probable relegation.

      Like them or not, TTA have provided finances to keep Blues afloat. Since Gold, Sullivan et al left, and when we were financially viable, we have become a financial basket case. The CEO has mismanaged a lot of aspects on and off the pitch, although he has (Redknapp apart) been reasonable in the transfer market. Where things have gone disastrously wrong is in the choosing of managers and on the training pitch.

      TTA and the CEO of BCFC need to heed the advice written in the letter, but above all the CEO needs to be replaced with someone who has knowledge of the English game. Also the CEO, nor any Board member, has any place, or any real right, to be on the training ground – that should be under the sole control of the manager of the team, and his own chosen assistants.

      BUT, there is no point in further antagonising TTA. We NEED TTA to succeed. We NEED TTA to make Blues a successful team so that it increases the Company value. Then, and only then, will TTA be able to sell the football club, hopefully to a wealthy, honest and straightforward owner who will communicate with the supporters – those will indeed be happy days…..

      • Dean Giblin

        putting NEED in caps all the time is not an argument. What we NEED is TTA either selling the club or going in to liquidation ( as they are running out of funds to support the club anyhow!). I would take either. If going in to liquidation and points deducted/relegation happens, then so be it. I would rather them out completely and us in league one than this situation we have been in for the last 6 years.

        You are completely naïve if you think that TTA are going to take any notice of this letter.

        • Clive Mason

          There have been many valid important points raised by both the Trust open letter and the respondents to it. A major inescapable factor that I have not seen mentioned is the financial implications of the pandemic and its aftermath. No one is going to invest obscene amounts of money in a failing entity, whether they are TTA or anyone else, and let’s face it, it would take a substantial investment to make any significant improvements to the club. We have to accept that we’ve missed the gravy train that is the Premiership and get realistic with our expectations. Survival is the first target, whatever division we end up in, and have no doubt there will be many clubs going under or struggling to survive. Overpaying mediocre players and their agents is no longer feasible, whoever the unfortunate (or desperate) next manager is.

      • mark hough

        did Redknapp do exactly what he was appointed to do, keep them up !

        • Jackie conlon

          A lot of thought has gone into this I hope it does some good
          I wish to see the whole club from top to bottom to succeed my main concern it’s the playing of football with a strong squad that can compete with anybody else with some passion nd pride I’m fed up of players taking money and not deliver

    • MARKE STEPHENSON

      With these people in ownership we are headed for relegation .
      Replacing Ren is not the answer, he is only part of the problem
      How can anyone seriously believe anything else!
      Sacked managers, ground not our own and selling our local talent and any other players- that are worth anything .

      we got out of jail again this season !!!!!!!

      • Williammorgan

        We need players with the ethic value of young ish captains , the most reliable in teams , the most technical , and all good goalscorers
        as all managers have never collected enough goalscoring players ..in all positions ,..and also aggressive winners , and excellent passers ,,

    • Mark goode

      I never want Sullivan and gold out. So I say to the supporters who didnbet you wished they were still here. If they were we would not be talking about this now. We would be in the prem. kro

      • Edward Twomey

        Im sorry but you have got a short memory as it was Sullivan/Brady/Gold who are responsible for starting this downward spiral when they sold our club to Carson Yeung. After stating before selling the club that they would not sell it to anyone who was not right and proper and who could carry on taking the club forward they sell it to someone described in the business world as Hong Kongs version of Dellboy and the rest is history.TTA haven’t got a clue how to run a football club and never will and under their ownership it will be season after season of fighting relegation and any decent manager would not touch blues wth a bargepole while the club are under ther management.

  2. Lionel Levine

    An extremely well constructed letter that succinctly encapsulates the current situation & concerns of our long suffering supporters.

    Is it too much to hope for an equally constructive reply, or better an invitation to meet?

    Thank-you for speaking up for us supporters.

    • Graham Stone

      Extremely good letter. I agree entirely Lionel.

  3. Robert Morris

    A very balanced account of the running of B.C.F.C. since TTA have had control. The three proposals are the way forward. There is no doubt that if the club breaks out of the malaise then the loyal fans will give their support. I am 73 years of age and have supported the ‘Blues’ from my first visit to the ground in 1955. I sincerely hope that my life span is long enough to see the club in the premiership.

  4. Rita Taylor

    A well expressed and supportive letter to TTA, but, I wonder if it is time for a more experienced person, with a full understanding of British football and the important part it plays in peoples’ lives, to have a greater share, or preferably, a full share, of ownership.

    With a population the size of Birmingham and surrounding area, we should be a much bigger club than we are currently.

    • Frank Nightingale

      Sorry to have to say it but all clubs below Premier level are money pits.

  5. Malcolm Stevens

    Wasn’t it earlier this year that [Daniel]Ivery revealed that there had been secret meetings between the Ren and various prominent supporters and groups.

    Was the Trust part of this? I suspect it was. I’m sorry to say that the Trust is part of the problem and not the cure.

  6. Malcolm Stevens

    Apologies Dan, that should say Dan Ivery not just Ivery. Typo.

  7. Chris

    Fair play to you for doing this and I wish you all the luck in the world, but sadly I feel that those behind TTA are so bloody arrogant they probably won’t even read it.

  8. Neil yeomans

    We stayed up, but this still feels like the worst end of season in my lifetime!
    Support your letter as a very open reasoned account of where we are, not sure we are dealing with open reasoned owners however.
    In addition The Trust should continue to promote for ;
    1 Representation on board.
    2 Clarification on where the transfer money received for Jude will go/be re-invested.
    3 Confirm in no uncertain language the Trusts concern that the fan-base is completely disenfranchised and positive communication is urgently required by the owners, we could be heading to a tipping point if they do not understand the levels of Supporter frustration/anger/distrust.

  9. Andy munro

    I agreeabsolutely with the trust’s stance and comments. Whether we like it or not TTA are with us for the foreseeable future so better to work with them than do a don quixote!

  10. Mike S

    From a financial perspective TTA have to understand that unless they change their direction of management to include clarity of vision, then I predict that crowds will dwindle to sub 10K levels.

    Since relegation almost 10 years ago the club has declined year on year. All fans I know are saying the same thing. Just saved this season, but next year bang on for relegation which could be the death knell for the club. All hope is fast evaporating.

  11. Rob

    let me tell you all the future of bcfc as I’m a medium . Bcfc will be in a relegation battle from the start of the new season they will be in the bottom 6 all season . Im not a medium but a realistic blues surpporter and under TTA things will never change

  12. Malc C

    A relatively balanced account but fully understand Bluenoses being frustrated with TTL and in particular Mr Ren.

    The problem with our club can lie fully at the hands of Mr Ren who yet again has made our club a laughing stock and we finish the season as being the WORSE team in the championship.

    TTL need to replace our hierarchy and devise a long term plan in moving forward with Brentford being a glowing example.

    Our scouting is poor , we have no strategy moving forward and too be honest next season will probably bring along the same unless the club reassess how we are to move forward.

    The one glowing light this season should go to Jude Bellingham who has been a revelation and all Blues supporters wish him every success.

    Jude, would love to see you on the pitch at one of our home games next season so all fans can applaud a fine young man.

    KRO

  13. Eric Jones

    I have sympathy for those who believe TTA should move to sell the club. in the meantime I support the Trusts approach especially the need for new senior staff and board members with football experience. The Chinese owners have not adapted well to the English way of doing things. If Brits want to make money in China they must understand Chinese culture. The reverse is true. It is sad they got rid of experienced senior staff and right now REN must go.

  14. Fred Greaves

    I think this is a measured and constructive approach. We have little chance of replacing the owners but they do need to know how angry us supporters are. You have suggested coherent and reasonable ways, in which BCFC can move forward. I hope you receive an equally positive and thoughtful response.
    Thank you.

  15. Kelvin

    The only way forward is a complete boycott of the club by all supporters. If this means administration and relegation then so be it.

    Under TTA we WILL relegated next season – take a look at the bookies odds when available – they are likely to put us as favourites to go down.

    You will never get any change from their arrogance and disdain.

    • Brian Gibbs

      I agree. Having been a loyal fan for 60+ years I have only on rare occasions seen any real hope of the success that all supporters deserve. This is solely down to crass mismanagement that has been apparent for far too long. Blues desperately need a total change at the top level and only then can I foresee any hope of a good future for the club!

  16. PDB

    Lets face it the majority of clubs both premiership and EFL have foreign owners and I dont think that is going away very soon…Newcastle have an English owner and they absolutely love him!!!!!! He cant even sell it without causing issues. My first Blues game was in 1965 and I loved it but over the years the “not going anywhere fast” wears you out. Talk to football fans all over the country and they say the same thing…who do you support…oh never mind lol lol. Its taken in jest but it isnt funny. The owners over the years have caused us pain but lets take the Gold Sullivan years, the ground was embarrassing and they turned it into something 100% better and I am sure we all agree on that, They at least tried to steady the ship manager wise and for a time it worked but selling to the Criminal hairdresser was a travesty and since then CRAP every season (virtually)
    The managers mentioned in the press are not names to set the pulse racing, well not for me (Karanka zzzzz) Try someone who has got some kind of footballing pedigree but is starting out in their career BUT stick with him through thick and thin if we can see light at the end of the ROAD..not tunnel. Lets play with flair and lets be attack minded…Leeds showed it could be done? were their players household names NOPE..The manager cant even speak English but he survived a major collapse last season and this season wiped the floor with everyone….lets not poo poo Fowler or someone of that ilk.
    I followed the 70s team yes I know boring but… Francis, Latchford and Hatton were a cut above anything since.

    Our club should be HUGE but over the years we have just drifted from mediocrity to downright awful (old div 3 comes to mind)
    We have to put this right we cant choose owners so we have to make do! I cant see them selling and who knows what will follow..another demon hairdresser.

    New manager (not a journeyman) new style new season LETS GO

    KRO Sorry for war and peace

    • DJ

      Spot on PDB, Francis, Latchford & Hatton all capable of 20 goals a season each, what entertainment and happy days. Sadly I can’t see anything resembling it ever happening again.

  17. Ray Young

    Dong Ren is the problem he chooses the players we sign and obviously interferes having set up an office at Wast Hills and not appointing a manager only head coach and telling him to play attacking football but success has to be based on a solid defence and a team capable of winning one nil especially away you will never be top six conceding three goals at home every game. My first season was 1945 winning league south when the great Gil Merrick only conceded 23 goals all season Happy Days I’m afraid that Chinese culture doesn’t allow you to disagree with the CEO for if you do you’re dismissed and Pep was appointed because he was prepared to be a yes man

  18. Wallyb

    The Trust should have consulted with someone with good knowledge of Chinese culture before they wrote the letter. TTTA will not respond to criticism of their actions as this would involve “loss of face” – (a fate worse than death in their culture). This particularly applies to Dong – replacing him would mean admitting failure. Same applies to our next manager – cultural understanding is crucial to our success.

  19. Wallyb

    Further to my previous.
    No one likes to be heavily criticised or told what to do particularly the Chinese.
    The only way to solve the problem is to offer to assist and be part of the strategy – backing TTA into a corner will achieve nothing – give them the opportunity to own your ideas as theirs. This is standard practice in dealing with autocratic management – ask any Business Management student! I may and hope I am wrong and they adopt the Trust suggestions but if there is no response the Trust need to try another tack.

  20. Malcolm Stevens

    Have to disagree. They chose to invest in a business outside their cultural sphere. Only thing they are entitled to is standard courtesy.

  21. Malcolm Collins

    Only problem with Chinese culture theory is that it does not stop you going down to 1st or second division or even out of existance.

    One or two more games for season just gone and we would have been relegated, it was that close.

    How would Chinese culture [have] dealt with that failure ???

  22. Wallyb

    Courtesy – another word that does not exist in Chinese business dealings. Our new manager prospect has already got the message and is seeking assurances – good luck!! When in China I was offered a contract with no details of hours of work or pay – they were amazed when I refused to sign!! They verbally promised and then renegged. TTA control our club on their terms – distasteful but the only hope is friendly persuasion.

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